piz

Consciousness and the Brain

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In what way are "thinking" and "focusing" physical? Or do you not consider them actions?

As I said, there is no such thing as mental activity absent physical brain processes. Mind and brain are one: when you think or focus, your brain does something physical. I'm not suggesting that this is what you're saying, but to claim that mental activity occurs without physical activity is to move the mind into the realm of the supernatural.

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Mind and brain are one: when you think or focus, your brain does something physical.

That's a pretty strong formulation. Are you sure that you want to equate your consciousness with that physical mass of cells in your skull?

I don't see any similarities between my nervous system and my conscious awareness at all. Pain is self-evident, directly observed and known only through introspection. Knowledge of the nervous system, on the other hand, is by no means self-evident. It had to be discovered through an extremely complex chain of scientific induction, i.e., extrospection. Man has been aware of pain since…well, forever. A-delta and C fibers (the nerves that start the pain signal) are only recently discovered. If these two things are identical, why such obvious differences? Why do we gain knowledge about pain in a completely different way than we gain knowledge about pain receptors? I would expect that we gain knowledge about one thing in the same way that we gain knowledge about another when two things are identical.

I'm also interested in why you are so sure that when you focus your mind you know that your brain does something physical (as an effect? as a correlate? as a coincidence?). You certainly didn't get this notion by introspecting. I don’t think the neurological evidence is at all conclusive on this note either. Even if it were true, this would still not make true the claim that “mind and brain” are one.

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That's a pretty strong formulation. Are you sure that you want to equate your consciousness with that physical mass of cells in your skull??...Even if it were true, this would still not make true the claim that “mind and brain” are one.

Ditto. The process of "thinking" is completely separate from the physical actions performed by the brain which make that process possible. By "completely separate" I don't mean to assert that thought can occur without the physical functioning of the brain - I mean that we can mentally isolate one from the other and consider each separately.

P.S. Betsy, your definitions are much more clear than the one's I suggested (not surprising, considering how much more practice you've had :excl: ).

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That's a pretty strong formulation. Are you sure that you want to equate your consciousness with that physical mass of cells in your skull?

Yes. Or, at least, with the brain plus perhaps some ancillary physical processes.

The mind must operate via some means. If not the brain (perhaps augmented per the above statement, but henceforth I'll leave out that distinction), then what?

I don't see any similarities between my nervous system and my conscious awareness at all.

That would depend on what you mean by "similarities." I'm not talking about similarities, I'm talking about how, by what means, the mind exists in reality. If the mind has no physical existence, how can we claim it exists at all?

To use an admittedly often strained analogy, there is no "similarity" between a program written in C++ and the hardware on which it runs. However, the software only actually exists in the hardware. There can't be a program that runs...where? I can't even think of a reasonable term to use to represent "outside of the computer." No hardware, no execution. No actual, existing, running program. They cannot be separated, not if you want the program to exist in the only meaningful sense it can - as a real, operating thing. The C++ version of the program is merely a description, an abstraction, of something the hardware can do. In the same way, we "do mind." Our understanding of how we do that is an abstraction of what must be some sort of physical process.

Pain is self-evident, directly observed and known only through introspection. Knowledge of the nervous system, on the other hand, is by no means self-evident. It had to be discovered through an extremely complex chain of scientific induction, i.e., extrospection. Man has been aware of pain since…well, forever. A-delta and C fibers (the nerves that start the pain signal) are only recently discovered. If these two things are identical, why such obvious differences? Why do we gain knowledge about pain in a completely different way than we gain knowledge about pain receptors? I would expect that we gain knowledge about one thing in the same way that we gain knowledge about another when two things are identical.

But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about in what way the mind exists, not the abstractions by which we describe how it works. Are you claiming that the mind needs no "apparatus," that it does not exist physically? If so, then what is the nature of its existence? What is its identity?

I'm also interested in why you are so sure that when you focus your mind you know that your brain does something physical (as an effect? as a correlate? as a coincidence?). You certainly didn't get this notion by introspecting. I don’t think the neurological evidence is at all conclusive on this note either. Even if it were true, this would still not make true the claim that “mind and brain” are one.

An effect of what? A correlate of what? A coincidence with what? If not something physical, what could it possibly be? What else exists that is not an epistemological construct that describes what physical reality is doing?

At the risk of an intervention by Stephen :excl:, it's like in physics. No matter how well they capture physical processes, equations don't rule existence - that's primacy of consciousness. Equations describe existence. The "laws" of physics aren't actual laws that existence must obey, even though existence does in fact always do what those laws describe (so long as we have formulated them correctly). The equations aren't Platonic.

I'm probably not explaining this very well. But how is it possible that the mind exists and operates by no physical means? Isn't that saying that it operates by no means at all? What other means is there for anything to exist and operate?

OK, maybe it's not the brain, though I can't think of what else it might be. But there must be a physical something, else what?

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Let me try this: "consciousness," "volition," "thought," "mind" - these are all extremely high-level concepts. There are no directly corresponding existents that make them first-level concepts like "table." But if they are valid concepts, then they must reduce to existents. They must be connected by the conceptual hierarchy and reasoning to something that physically exists.

I contend that they reduce to the brain, which by its nature does what we abstract up to those concepts.

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Let me try this: "consciousness," "volition," "thought," "mind" - these are all extremely high-level concepts. There are no directly corresponding existents that make them first-level concepts like "table." But if they are valid concepts, then they must reduce to existents. They must be connected by the conceptual hierarchy and reasoning to something that physically exists.

I contend that they reduce to the brain, which by its nature does what we abstract up to those concepts.

I was right - upon reviewing some things in the Lexicon, I realize that I'm doing a lousy job of explaining what I mean. :excl: I don't think I'm wrong, but I've got my terminology all fouled up, so what I'm trying to say isn't coming across at all well.

I'll withdraw at this point until I can better formulate my argument.

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I'm probably not explaining this very well. But how is it possible that the mind exists and operates by no physical means? Isn't that saying that it operates by no means at all? What other means is there for anything to exist and operate?

Consciousness is different in kind from matter, and neither can be reduced to the other. Perhaps what you are after is the fact that the brain somehow gives rise to consciousness. But that neural processes accompany conscious processes does not negate the fact that consciousness itself has causal efficacy over the brain and the body in which the brain resides. The means by which this is achieved is not presently understood, but that does not imply that the means by which consciousness operates must be physical means. Clearly we know, by introspection alone, that volitional processes are just that, volitional, and are therefore not governed by physically deterministic means.

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If the mind has no physical existence, how can we claim it exists at all?

Because consciousness is an axiomatic concept. One knows it by direct perception (introspection rather than extrospection).

I am sure that Ayn Rand discusses grasping existence and consciousness before we have a concept of 'physical,' a discussion that I think is relevant to what you are thinking about. I think the discussion is in the appendix in ItOE. If I find where it is, I'll let you know.

One may learn eventually that man's mind can not exist separately from his brain; but one first knows about a mind by direct introspection, while 'brain' is far from being an axiomatic concept.

'Mind' is a subcategory of consciousness, so it is also axiomatic. It refers to man's conceptual consciousness, while consciousness is an attribute of many animals.

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Let me try this: "consciousness," "volition," "thought," "mind" - these are all extremely high-level concepts. There are no directly corresponding existents that make them first-level concepts like "table." But if they are valid concepts, then they must reduce to existents. They must be connected by the conceptual hierarchy and reasoning to something that physically exists.

I contend that they reduce to the brain, which by its nature does what we abstract up to those concepts.

I think I understand more about what you are saying, Michael. Since I generally try to stay away from point-by-point responses (especially when they are qualified as "a work in progress" which is completely acceptable and understood), let me just make two important points and see if that takes us anywhere.

The first point that I want to make concerns the kind of explanation seemingly involved in your claim that "mind is brain." I want to make it explicit: it is reductionism. Reductionism is "an attempt or tendency to explain a complex set of facts, entities, phenomena, or structures by another, simpler set" (Dictionary.com). Leaving aside greater questions about the varieties of and validity of reductionism, we can probably agree that this is a popular method of explanation. John Holland observes (Dictionary.com) "“For the last 400 years science has advanced by reductionism... The idea is that you could understand the world, all of nature, by examining smaller and smaller pieces of it. When assembled, the small pieces would explain the whole.” This is a powerful means of understanding the world.

Reductionism is the philosophy behind most of the claims that the mind is the brain and it goes something like this: "We can measure and quantify all aspects of the nervous system whereas consciousness is a tremendously complex phenomenon that begets a simple explanation. Since it is clear that nervous systems give rise to consciousness, it is appropriate, then, to explain the more complex and dependent phenomenon (consciousness) in terms of the simpler, better understood phenomenon (the nervous system)." Several assumptions (and errors) are being made by such reductionists and I tried to allude to these in my previous post . My first point is simply that this is (most likely) the philosophy behind the claim that "mind is brain." (If you have a different approach, Michael, then I would be very interested in hearing how your view is non-reductionist.)

The second point that I want to make is that reductionism with respect to consciousness is false. Reductionism is not a method applicable to consciousness since consciousness is sui generis (see OPAR p. 47); it is its own category. In order to explain a complex phenomenon in terms of simpler or more fundamental facts, there must be an unbreached continuum of relationships and dependencies between the two phenomena involved. There is, indeed, a buildup of interrelated facts involved in the physical mechanisms of the nervous system related to my example of pain. From the receptors themselves to nerves that carry the signal up the spinal cord all the way through intermediate areas of the brain ending(?) in the cortex, each of these phenomena can be completely explained in terms of biochemical events and those in terms of atomic reactions. We can be complete reductionists here. But a sensation of pain is not a part of this physical chain of events because a sensation of pain is not physical; pain is a completely different kind of thing from the events I just outlined. This is the "bone of contention" where I suspect our views differ.

I hope that this helps to solidify your views, Michael. These are my own views but I believe them to be consonant with Objectivism. I'm going to start a new thread on this topic since I would enjoy furthering discussion on this topic and we're getting too far off from the topic of the current thread.

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The first point that I want to make concerns the kind of explanation seemingly involved in your claim that "mind is brain." I want to make it explicit: it is reductionism.

That's exactly my problem - it's not reductionism. More precisely, it sounds like reductionism because I haven't integrated the ideas well enough to explain them without using reductionistic formulations.

Dr. Binswanger is the proper resource for these ideas - see his offerings at ARB, such as Consciousness as Identification, The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts, Volition as Cognitive Self-Regulation, The Metaphysics of Consciousness, and Free Will.

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Consciousness is different in kind from matter, and neither can be reduced to the other. Perhaps what you are after is the fact that the brain somehow gives rise to consciousness. But that neural processes accompany conscious processes does not negate the fact that consciousness itself has causal efficacy over the brain and the body in which the brain resides. The means by which this is achieved is not presently understood, but that does not imply that the means by which consciousness operates must be physical means. Clearly we know, by introspection alone, that volitional processes are just that, volitional, and are therefore not governed by physically deterministic means.

This is close to the heart of the matter for me.

(Pardon the slight rearranging of Stephen's post in the quotes that follow, but I don't think I alter his meaning in any way.)

"The brain somehow gives rise to consciousness...consciousness itself has causal efficacy over the brain...[but] the means by which this is achieved is not presently understood..."

So, consciousness arises from the brain, and consciousness is causal relative to the brain. At first glance this might appear contradictory, as though each somehow takes precedence over the other, and this once caused me much concern, but I no longer see a contradiction. Almost all by itself, just the title of Dr. Binswanger's booklet, Volition as Cognitive Self-Regulation, describes the way I understand the issue. I'll elaborate below.

"...the means by which consciousness operates [is not necessarily] physical..."

This is the part that I always find disturbing. No matter how it's phrased, it sounds to me akin to "spooky action at a distance" in physics - as though consciousness is some sort of supernatural force that operates on matter while in no way being "entangled with" it. To me that raises the spectre of non-identity, the way the religious terms "soul" or "God" (or "spectre" :excl:) do. Yet we know for a fact that consciousness does exist and does have identity.

Now, to quote Ayn Rand (from the Lexicon):

Abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man's epistemological method of perceiving that which exists - and that which exists is concrete. ["The Psycho-Epistemology of Art," RM, 27; pb 23.]

Taking all the preceding together, if it doesn't mean that consciousness has a physical embodiment of some nature, I can't even imagine what it does mean.

(This AR quote, by the way, I think counters the claim that consciousness being an axiomatic concept - i.e. an abstraction - supports the idea that consciousness has no physical existence. The hierarchical placement of the concept has no bearing on the nature of the metaphysical existents to which the concept refers.)

Now back to Stephen:

"...volitional processes are not governed by physically deterministic means."

Here's where my personal understanding comes together. I can sum it up thus (I use "volition" rather than "consciousness" because that's what it really comes down to: some animals are conscious - i.e. "aware" - but not volitional):

Volition is a process of the brain - an action. There can be no action absent an entity, a concrete existent, which acts. In the case of volition that entity is the brain. Yet an apparent contradiction exists, because of two facts: (1) the brain is composed of matter, which behaves deterministically, and (2) human action is nondeterministic. I resolve this apparent contradiction by checking the premise that matter must behave deterministically. Because "causal" does not mean "deterministic," I conclude that it is possible for matter, in the form of the human brain, to behave causally yet nondeterministically. This behavior is what we call, and experience introspectively as, volition. The brain, via the mechanism of volition ("cognitive self-regulation"), is causal but not deterministic with respect to itself. Matter cannot behave nondeterministically in general, but only under specific conditions, conditions which are met, so far as we know at present, solely in the human brain. What precisely those conditions are, and precisely how the brain operates to accomplish volition, are for science to discover.

This is my attempt to describe the relationship between the physical brain and volition. It's expressed about as well as I can possibly express it. I make no claims beyond it being my own understanding and conclusion to the extent I have studied the question.

(On an entirely personal note: right or wrong, I've just spent almost three hours in some of the most enjoyable activity of my life, writing and editing - and editing and editing and editing - this post. So enjoyable that I've overcome my standard fear of being really, really wrong - which I might well be in this case - and gone ahead and posted the damn thing. :) Gawd how I love to think! :D Thank you all for being here to engage with.)

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"...the means by which consciousness operates [is not necessarily] physical..."

This is the part that I always find disturbing. No matter how it's phrased, it sounds to me akin to "spooky action at a distance" in physics - as though consciousness is some sort of supernatural force that operates on matter while in no way being "entangled with" it. To me that raises the spectre of non-identity, the way the religious terms "soul" or "God" (or "spectre" :excl:) do. Yet we know for a fact that consciousness does exist and does have identity.

And your last sentence states exactly the difference between the actions of consciousness and "spooky action at a distance." By introspection, which is a perfectly valid form of perception, we identify the volitional aspect of consciousness and thereby note it is different in kind from the actions of deterministic matter. By contrast, "spooky action at a distance" is an unwarranted, unjustified inference made by some in lieu of actual knowledge.

Now, to quote Ayn Rand (from the Lexicon):

Abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man's epistemological method of perceiving that which exists - and that which exists is concrete. ["The Psycho-Epistemology of Art," RM, 27; pb 23.]

Taking all the preceding together, if it doesn't mean that consciousness has a physical embodiment of some nature, I can't even imagine what it does mean.

(This AR quote, by the way, I think counters the claim that consciousness being an axiomatic concept - i.e. an abstraction - supports the idea that consciousness has no physical existence. The hierarchical placement of the concept has no bearing on the nature of the metaphysical existents to which the concept refers.)

First, the products of consciousness are mental concretes, and their existence is just as real and assured as physical concretes. I ask you the same question I asked in another post: Where do concepts reside? Do you think they reside in the brain?

Second, what exactly do you mean by "physical embodiment?" How you hold this notion may account for some of our differences. But, to be clear, I have said that consciousness depends upon the brain for its existence, but that does not mean that consciousness resides in the brain. Again, just because neural processes may accompany conscious processes does not mean that consciousness and the brain are one. I mean, find me a concept in the brain. Show me where "justice" resides. Can you find "honesty" when you look at neurons? The point is, consciousness is different in kind from matter; even the very language we use to describe the products of consciousness is unique and does not pertain to matter.

"...volitional processes are not governed by physically deterministic means."

Here's where my personal understanding comes together. I can sum it up thus (I use "volition" rather than "consciousness" because that's what it really comes down to: some animals are conscious - i.e. "aware" - but not volitional):

Volition is a process of the brain - an action. There can be no action absent an entity, a concrete existent, which acts. In the case of volition that entity is the brain. Yet an apparent contradiction exists, because of two facts: (1) the brain is composed of matter, which behaves deterministically, and (2) human action is nondeterministic. I resolve this apparent contradiction by checking the premise that matter must behave deterministically. Because "causal" does not mean "deterministic," I conclude that it is possible for matter, in the form of the human brain, to behave causally yet nondeterministically. This behavior is what we call, and experience introspectively as, volition. The brain, via the mechanism of volition ("cognitive self-regulation"), is causal but not deterministic with respect to itself. Matter cannot behave nondeterministically in general, but only under specific conditions, conditions which are met, so far as we know at present, solely in the human brain. What precisely those conditions are, and precisely how the brain operates to accomplish volition, are for science to discover.

That is a lovely little story, but it is completely arbitrary and contradictory to what is known. All matter acts deterministically. Period. If you want to assert otherwise it is incumbent upon you to provide evidence even to entertain the notion as a possibility.

(On an entirely personal note: right or wrong, I've just spent almost three hours in some of the most enjoyable activity of my life, writing and editing - and editing and editing and editing - this post. So enjoyable that I've overcome my standard fear of being really, really wrong - which I might well be in this case - and gone ahead and posted the damn thing. :) Gawd how I love to think! :D Thank you all for being here to engage with.)

I think it is you who are due some thanks. These are absolutely fascinating subjects to discuss, and it is only by pushing the issue, as you are doing, that we can explore these issues in some depth.

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First, the products of consciousness are mental concretes, and their existence is just as real and assured as physical concretes.

The best I can do in response to this is say that, if you are correct (and I'm not saying you're not), there must be information I don't have that would lead me to agree with you. Trust me when I say I'll look for it - I hate being wrong. :excl:

I ask you the same question I asked in another post: Where do concepts reside? Do you think they reside in the brain?

At this point, yes, because I believe that is where the mind resides, so if the mind "holds" concepts, that is also where they would reside. ("Resides" isn't quite the right word, because my thinking so far is that the mind is an action rather than an entity, but I'm struggling here to express myself.) All I can say is that there must be more for me to learn if I am to come to understand it the way you put it.

(This makes me think of that "layman's certainty" thread. :))

Second, what exactly do you mean by "physical embodiment?" How you hold this notion may account for some of our differences.

As I said in my last post, there cannot be action without an entity that acts, and entites are concrete. I take "concrete" to mean physical. I can't yet get my mind around the idea of a "non-physical concrete." I don't know, though, if that answers your question.

But, to be clear, I have said that consciousness depends upon the brain for its existence, but that does not mean that consciousness resides in the brain.

And I see that as a contradiction, which I am attempting to resolve. You're telling me my present resolution is incorrect. I'll continue to work on it. (I would say that I'm incapable of not working on it, but after all I do have volition. But I'm damn near incapable of not working on it. :D)

Again, just because neural processes may accompany conscious processes does not mean that consciousness and the brain are one. I mean, find me a concept in the brain. Show me where "justice" resides. Can you find "honesty" when you look at neurons?

I'm not yet convinced that that would be impossible. Not that I expect a specific clump of cells to be the locus of "honesty," but perhaps some active system or process of enormous scope and/or complexity, not knowable given the present state of the science. I might be wrong, but I don't know enough to be more specific than that.

The point is, consciousness is different in kind from matter; even the very language we use to describe the products of consciousness is unique and does not pertain to matter.

Well, action is different in kind from entity, yet only entities act. And I'm not convinced that the fact that the words are different is evidence that consciousness is not physically based. All that says to me is that we conceptualize them differently, but "abstracts as such do not exist." Once again, this is a work in progress in my mind.

That is a lovely little story, but it is completely arbitrary and contradictory to what is known. All matter acts deterministically. Period.

And perhaps I've reached a point where I am in error. If so, I'll eventually correct myself.

If you want to assert otherwise it is incumbent upon you to provide evidence even to entertain the notion as a possibility.

Yes. I'm not able to do that at present. It's certainly possible that I'll come to junk the whole notion (I won't even go so far as to call it a "theory" except maybe in the colloquial sense - certainly not meaning the scientific term), but I find it compelling and so I will continue to investigate the relevant facts, reasoning, existing materials, etc.

I was a little taken aback at your use of "assertion," but only because I thnk "assertion" has become a perjorative term in a lot of Objectivist discussion - based on what I've observed it seems that people "accuse" others of making assertions, implying that anyone who makes an assertion is being purposefully dishonest or worse. It's true that my statement is an assertion in that I haven't presented any evidence, but I'm in the process of an honest intellectual journey here, not trying to convince anyone of anything at this point but rather presenting the state of my progress, and I would never claim my assertion as fact unless I found the necessary evidence to make it so.

I think it is you who are due some thanks. These are absolutely fascinating subjects to discuss, and it is only by pushing the issue, as you are doing, that we can explore these issues in some depth.

And this is why the first sentence of the previous paragraph is in the past tense. :D I know you didn't use "assertion" perjoratively, just technically. And what I presented is nothing more than an assertion, in the technical sense of that term. All I can say in my defense is that many ideas begin as assertions and end up as fact, following a full and correct investigation. I know enough of your expertise to think that it's likely that won't be the case here, but I'm reminded of Hugh Akston's statement to Dagny: "Consider the reasons which make us certain that we are right, but not the fact that we are certain. If you are not convinced, ignore our certainty. Don't be tempted to substitute our judgment for your own." (Incidentally, that one line is perhaps the biggest reason that I began to trust Ayn Rand and her work - I'd never heard anything like it coming from someone presenting any religion, philosophy or other "life-guiding" system.)

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As I said in my last post, there cannot be action without an entity that acts, and entites are concrete. I take "concrete" to mean physical. I can't yet get my mind around the idea of a "non-physical concrete." I don't know, though, if that answers your question.

What is your proof that all concretes, including mental existents such as pains, are physical? Materialists throughout the ages have simply assumed this without proof.

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What is your proof that all concretes, including mental existents such as pains, are physical? Materialists throughout the ages have simply assumed this without proof.

I have nothing to offer that would satisfy anyone (including myself at this point) as having proven anything, only a working hypothesis that I (see below) think has enough behind it to pursue further and which I (again, see below) think could resolve what I at present see as contradictions.

As I said, it's a work in progress in understanding a highly abstract and complex issue, and a hypothesis that could easily wind up discarded. I'm not making any claims, just presenting a "snapshot" of the thinking I've been doing.

Hey, I'm only a rank amateur epistemologist. What are the odds that I'm in the process of making a revolutionary discovery as opposed to just not having studied enough stuff yet to see where I'm wrong? :excl:

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First, the products of consciousness are mental concretes, and their existence is just as real and assured as physical concretes.

The best I can do in response to this is say that, if you are correct (and I'm not saying you're not), there must be information I don't have that would lead me to agree with you. Trust me when I say I'll look for it - I hate being wrong. :excl:

But what else then is introspection? You do not doubt the physical concretes when you look out to the world, so why doubt the mental concretes when you look inward?

I ask you the same question I asked in another post: Where do concepts reside? Do you think they reside in the brain?

At this point, yes, because I believe that is where the mind resides, so if the mind "holds" concepts, that is also where they would reside. ("Resides" isn't quite the right word, because my thinking so far is that the mind is an action rather than an entity, but I'm struggling here to express myself.) All I can say is that there must be more for me to learn if I am to come to understand it the way you put it.

I think this is the essence of our disagreement, and I don't think the issue of what you need to learn is as important as what needs to be un-learned. Historically, the whole philosphical battle has been fought between those who see consciousness as a diaphanous soul unattached to the body, and those who see the mind as another piece of meat, as something that the brain does. This materialist view is the one you have accepted and that is what needs to be unlearned. Man is an integrated mind and body; consciousness does not exist absent of the brain, but the processes and products of consciousness are different in nature and kind from the matter that composes the brain.

This might be a good point to stop, not to cut you off but because I think repetition sometimes leads to frustration. I just want to say if you took offense at anything that I have said, or were offended by the manner in which I spoke, then I sincerely apologize for that. Offending you is the last thing I would want to do, and if that is how you felt then I can assure you that most certainly was not my intention. I personally enjoy these sort of conversations very much, and I hope that after some more thought we can start the subject afresh in a separate thread. Perhaps it would be easier if we did not bite off too big a chunk to chew, and next time focused on just a narrower aspect of all this.

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If piz had said "the subconscious mind is (part of) the brain" instead of "the mind is the brain," I would have agreed with him. So I would have answered your question of where concepts reside with "in the brain." They "reside" in the brain in the same sense that, e.g., one's skill of playing tennis resides in the brain.

Of course, concepts are manifested in *consciousness* to some extent when one thinks conceptually. To *what* extent is an interesting question of introspective psychology. I, for one, cannot introspectively identify any mental concrete that I would identify as *the* "concept of justice" when I am thinking about justice. I am interested in other's introspections about this!

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I, for one, cannot introspectively identify any mental concrete that I would identify as *the* "concept of justice" when I am thinking about justice. I am interested in other's introspections about this!

When I think of a concept like "dog" -- let's say I am reading a novel and a dog is mentioned -- I get a mental picture of a dog. It's a very average looking dog, medium sized, brown, etc. What I see, mentally, is an average, typical unit of the concept.

Likewise, when I think of justice, I mentally see some units of the concept: a judge banging his gavel after rendering his verdict, two businessmen shaking hands and saying "That's fair" after a tough round of negotiations, and other average instances of justice. Also, when I contemplate the concept of justice, it is accompanied by positive emotions that energize me and impel me toward certain actions like defending the innocent, fighting for what is due me, praising things I value, etc.

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When I think of a concept like "dog"...

Yes, I have much the same kinds of experiences. I notice that you do not mention a mental concrete of the concept as such, so it appears that we agree there as well.

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If piz had said "the subconscious mind is (part of) the brain" instead of "the mind is the brain," I would have agreed with him. So I would have answered your question of where concepts reside with "in the brain." They "reside" in the brain in the same sense that, e.g., one's skill of playing tennis resides in the brain.

Then you would need to more carefully define the "same sense" you refer to in your third sentence, because I would otherwise argue that your first two sentences are reductionist in nature. That we store and recall from the subconscious says nothing about concepts residing in the brain. We continue to learn about the physical basis for memory, but all we identify and measure are action potentials, neurotransmitters, CREB protein, alpha oscillations,etc., and nowhere is a "concept" to be found. That memory has a physical basis is just as indisputable as the brain being required for consciousness to exist, but in neither case is one reducible to the other. A "concept" is not any of the physical things we can identify in the brain.

Of course, concepts are manifested in *consciousness* to some extent when one thinks conceptually. To *what* extent is an interesting question of introspective psychology. I, for one, cannot introspectively identify any mental concrete that I would identify as *the* "concept of justice" when I am thinking about justice. I am interested in other's introspections about this!

What else could introspection possibly mean if there were not mental concretes to identify? Ayn Rand had no difficulty with such a term.

Prof. E: Would it be fair to say that a concept qua concept is not a concrete but an integration of concretes, but qua existent it is a concrete integration, a specific mental entity in a particular mind?

AR: That's right. But I kept saying, incidentally, that we can call them "mental entities" only metaphorically or for convenience. It is a "something." For instance, before you have a certain concept, that particular something doesn't exist in your mind. When you have formed the concept of "concept," that is a mental something; it isn't a nothing. But anything pertaining to the content of a mind always has to be treated metaphysically not as a separate existent, but only with this precondition, in effect: that it is a mental state, a mental concrete, a mental something. Actually, "mental something" is the nearest to an exact identification. Because "entity" does imply a physical thing.

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When I think of a concept like "dog"...

Yes, I have much the same kinds of experiences. I notice that you do not mention a mental concrete of the concept as such, so it appears that we agree there as well.

But a mental image is not a concept, it is ... well, it is a mental image. If we developed our concepts and held them in terms of images, we would never advance far-enough in conceptual development to be having these discussions. A single-word represents a concept in some sensory form, the means by which we can hold the entirety of all possible concrete instances which the concept integrates. If we had to visualize through images whenever we used a concept then there would be no useful purpose to language. Granted we have the obvious capacity to mentally image some limited form or number of the referents of a concept, but that is not what we mean by holding the concept in the first place.

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But what else then is introspection? You do not doubt the physical concretes when you look out to the world, so why doubt the mental concretes when you look inward?

I don't doubt that they're there, I just don't understand them to my satisfaction. All I can say is "working on it."

I think this is the essence of our disagreement, and I don't think the issue of what you need to learn is as important as what needs to be un-learned.

That may very well be. I see something, and it overcomes reductionism without leaping into supernaturalism, and connects mind and brain in a way that doesn't merely weld the ghost to the corpse (which is what I still see in "consciousness depends upon the brain for its existence, but that does not mean that consciousness resides in the brain"). It seems to do more than anything I've studied thus far (emphasis on "thus far"). Maybe what I'm seeing is exactly what you're saying, and I just haven't learned enough nor integrated well enough to grasp that.

I imagine that one day I'll be reading some paper and some statement will trigger all the connections coming together all at once and I'll say, "Ah! That's what it is! And what Stephen said means the same thing! I get it now!" That sort of thing has happened before.

Historically, the whole philosphical battle has been fought between those who see consciousness as a diaphanous soul unattached to the body, and those who see the mind as another piece of meat, as something that the brain does. This materialist view is the one you have accepted and that is what needs to be unlearned.

Yes, though I see it more as failing to grasp and/or present my position because the only terms I know well enough to use are the materialist ones. I don't accept materialism.

This might be a good point to stop, not to cut you off but because I think repetition sometimes leads to frustration.

Yes. And I clearly have so much more work to do. I've exhausted my ability to add anything more than I've already said.

I just want to say if you took offense at anything that I have said, or were offended by the manner in which I spoke, then I sincerely apologize for that. Offending you is the last thing I would want to do, and if that is how you felt then I can assure you that most certainly was not my intention. I personally enjoy these sort of conversations very much, and I hope that after some more thought we can start the subject afresh in a separate thread. Perhaps it would be easier if we did not bite off too big a chunk to chew, and next time focused on just a narrower aspect of all this.

Thanks for that, and I wasn't offended, just initially thrown a little. I react that way - long story - but I'm getting better at overcoming my initial reactions. Five years ago I might have been so mortified at eliciting such a statement that you never would have heard from me again. :excl:

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But a mental image is not a concept, it is ... well, it is a mental image. .

But you see, that is precisely my point. A mental image is an introspectible mental existent, but it is not a concept. I don’t think that even the conscious visual/auditory experience of a word such as "dog" is a concept.

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Then you would need to more carefully define the "same sense" you refer to in your third sentence, because I would otherwise argue that your first two sentences are reductionist in nature.

Let me put the question this way: where does a concept “reside” when you are not conscious of it (i.e., when it is not actualized, to put it in Aristotelian terms)? I think that perhaps the best answer is: the potential for the concept exists in the brain. This is not reductionism, since the formulation allows for the existence of irreducible conscious phenomena when the concept is actualized.

The problem that AR is wrestling with in the passage you cite is that we have a dearth of terminology for the description of conscious phenomena, i.e., an insufficiency of concepts of consciousness. Note that she does not give an introspective description of the "mental something" that is a concept.

Can you give an introspective description of a mental concrete that *is* the concept of “justice”?

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